To fight crime, West Side neighborhood groups attempt to build community

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NORTH LAWNDALE – West Side leaders know they face difficult battles to create safer communities.

The violence shaking their neighborhoods – including two mass shootings over the weekend – results from deep-rooted issues, they say. To crack down on this, they must first tackle a history of neglect that has left residents without healthcare, education, housing, jobs and other essential services for generations.

This is what the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council is trying to solve. Through outreach that fosters peace, fosters community, and connects people to vital resources, community organizers said they are solving problems that they hope will lead to less gun violence.

“These are symptoms. It’s the result of instability and racism as a whole, ”said Brittany Spralls, chair of the coalition’s public safety committee. “And it’s an epidemic, and one of the ways we can solve these problems is to make things fairer in all areas around education, housing, arts and culture, green spaces. .

“The way we think about security is having a healthy community.”

The council, a coalition of residents and organizations, has implemented community improvements set out in North Lawndale’s Quality of Life plan. At a recent meeting, they said they were gaining ground on some of their goals.

“We recognize that tackling crime in North Lawndale is not just about using the tool of criminal justice,” said Rodney Brown, chair of the neighborhood economic development committee. “We need to talk about housing. We need to talk about education. We need to talk about jobs. All of these things need to be part of the tools we use to fight crime.

Members of the Public Safety Committee are planning outreach events throughout the summer to coordinate opportunities for anti-violence groups like UCAN and Lawndale Christian Legal Center to “meet people where they are to help them.” with the things they need, ”Spralls said.

The Coalition’s Light in the Night events strengthen community engagement in areas considered high risk for crime. The Hoops in the Hood program offers young people positive activities to do during the summer. Members of the public safety committee also organize peace circles and barbecues to connect with the community.

“You will always see us in the community in different parks… trying to solve the problem of creating safe and peaceful spaces. We are also here to engage the community and connect it with different services available in North Lawndale and provide them with enveloping spaces, ”said Spralls.

The One Lawndale Peace Party organized by the neighborhood arts and culture committee aims to create unity between North and South Lawndale so that communities can work together to make the two neighborhoods healthier, stronger and more peaceful. .

The One Lawndale Peace Party is scheduled from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on July 31 at Douglass Park, 2950 W. 19th Street.

“The Latino community and the black community are both divested. We want to come together and have a Peace Party to continue working together as a community to make our West Side community fair and have everything we need. Said Sheila McNary, Chair of the Arts and Culture Committee.

Credit: Colin Boyle / Block Club Chicago
Trees bloom at Douglass Park in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood on April 13, 2021.

The organization’s other ongoing projects are improving access to food, fostering local businesses and generating more rewarding educational opportunities at Lawndale.

Another key goal is to make the neighborhood a more welcoming place for small businesses. Brown’s committee trains entrepreneurs and small business owners to develop “an ecosystem in North Lawndale of businesses that support each other,” he said.

Lawndale’s economy is booming, with several developments, like Ogden Commons, creating jobs and bringing black-owned businesses to the area. There is a “wonderful plethora of jobs” available in the community, and many of these jobs start at $ 20 to $ 28 an hour, said Brenda Palms Barber, CEO of the North Lawndale Employment Network. The non-profit workforce development organization will soon be opening a new headquarters at 1111 S. Homan Ave.

The improved business climate in the region also creates opportunities for people jostling on the streets to follow a better path and find legal sources of income, Brown said.

“You would be surprised at some of the people who are in life who have excellent entrepreneurial skills. We are looking to engage them and help them use those skills to grow into a legal business, ”said Brown.

Nonviolence must be a strategy that involves every part of the community to deal with the circumstances that breed despair, hopelessness and conflict, Spalls said. Young people at risk also need to be engaged “in a restorative way,” Spralls said.

“We cannot talk about the violence people inflict on each other without talking fully and honestly about the violence inflicted on them since birth,” Spralls said.

The answers to neighborhood crime are already present in North Lawndale, Brown said. Local businesses, nonprofits, organizers and residents know the problem better than anyone in the city, he said. To affect real change, public and private investment in the West Side must empower residents to take the lead in addressing these issues, Brown said.

“People on the ground work daily to find solutions. We need to fund these solutions, ”said Brown.

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